Ottawa should forgive a greater portion of pandemic loans because businesses owned by women and marginalized groups are more likely to struggle to repay the loans, a coalition of business groups says.
The federal government launched the Canada Emergency Business Account in the early days of the pandemic and extended interest-free loans of either $40,000 or $60,000 to almost 900,000 businesses, a total of $49-billion. As of March 31, only about one in five had been repaid.
Businesses that repay their loans by Dec. 31 will have either $10,000 or $20,000 forgiven, depending on the size of the loan. As of Jan. 1, no amount will be forgiven, and interest will begin to accrue at the rate of 5 per cent.
Anita Agrawal, the owner of jewellery manufacturer Best Bargains Jewellery, took out a CEBA loan in 2020 to help her business transition online. When travel shut down amid the pandemic, she could no longer rely on trade shows to expand her network of 3,000 retailers that carry her products, which include the jewels4ever brand.
She said industry trade shows are finally back, and she is now faced with a decision: pay back the CEBA loan in full or invest in her business by making new inventory and travelling to shows again.
“We’re not operating on very big margins as it is,” she said.
And many small businesses do not even have the funds on hand right now to pay off the loans, according to Liliana Camacho, director of the small-business advocacy group the Better Way Alliance.